I had a meeting a couple of years ago in Beijing with a mid-level official heading a Central Committee office, who told me over a long lunch that I could not possibly understand contemporary China without appreciating what a total disaster the Cultural Revolution was, and how the current system was organized to prevent that from happening again. Looking around at the books and memorials to Mao Zedong that the Party was still promoting, I asked him how that could come about unless the Party was more forthright in telling the truth about Mao’s legacy. His generation had personal experience of those terrible events, but people growing up since then did not, and could be seduced into viewing it with nostalgia. It was precisely that lack of historical remembrance that Bo Xilai was exploiting. The official, by the way, didn’t have an answer to my question.
This is what keeps the dynastic cycle turning: the people forget. The generation that saw the disasters inherent of bad government is not the generation that finds bad government visionary and needful. They’ve forgotten the lessons. Allzu menslich, as the cranky old philosopher might put it.